DEAR MISS MANNERS: What is a kind and yet firm comment that I can say to the person in line after me at the cash register, who invariably comes and stands next to my elbow while I'm using my credit/debit card?
I wish to say, "Back off, lady," or "Would you please get your nose out of my business?" But I simply can't confront people like that, and I know that it would be rude.
GENTLE READER: Take back your card and ask the cashier, "Is there any way we can cancel my transaction so this lady can go ahead of me? She appears to be in a hurry, and perhaps it's important."
Whether your interloper reacts with annoyance or proper embarrassment, Miss Manners assures you she will have taken a step back, during which time you may cancel your request and re-tender your payment.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: My daughter gets so upset when strangers call her baby girl a boy because she has very little hair. She is dressed in pink girly clothes.
What would be a good response to these people who are oblivious to what she is wearing?
GENTLE READER: Here's one that your daughter will still be able to use (in a pleasant tone, Miss Manners hopes) in future years, when her daughter is wearing jeans and a boyfriend's sweatshirt: "She's a girl."
DEAR MISS MANNERS: I was hoping for some clarity on how to handle returning phone calls in this age of caller ID. My feeling is when I receive a missed call from an unknown caller, I am under no obligation to return the call if they do not leave a message.
My husband claims that due to the prevalence of caller ID, the missed call and residual phone number are message enough. Of course, if a known family member or friend calls, I will return their call without hesitation. This is really only in regards to unknown phone numbers.
GENTLE READER: Not every missed call is important, particularly in these days of relatively inexpensive long-distance rates and cellular telephones that make accidental calls seemingly on their own.
It is Miss Manners' conclusion that if a caller (even a known caller) does not leave a message, it is reasonable to assume it is because he or she had nothing -- or at least nothing pressing -- to say. Such non-calls may be returned or not at the receiver's pleasure.
(Please send your questions to Miss Manners at her website, www.missmanners.com; to her email, firstname.lastname@example.org; or through postal mail to Miss Manners, Universal Uclick, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)